Article by Andrea Ayala

In the aftermath of natural disasters, we often think of the government, family breadwinners, and international organizations as important stakeholders in the affected communities; however, children are also heavily impacted by calamities such as Haiyan. Hence, developing the school in Estancia not only requires constructing effective and durable infrastructure, but also creating kid friendly environments to develop a sense of normalcy for the kids. 

According to one of the UNICEF representatives, senior child protection worker Nithi Sellapu, during the chaos of natural disasters, children may be separated from their parents, and potentially be exposed to sex trafficking or child abuse. While the children interviewed didn’t experience this extreme, in the school sponsored by the Coke Little Schoolhouse project, a Grade 5 student, said that during the typhoon she stayed behind in her house to stay with her grandfather, while her family evacuated to the main city. Another girl in Grade 1 explained that as Haiyan developed, her parents moved her to her neighbors house, because it was studier, but they opted to stay in their own house to take care of their belongings. As a result of such distressing experiences, the little girl says that she’s become traumatized, so that everytime there is an announcement for a typhoon, she gets paranoid and extremely scared. In addition to this, other students stated that they didn’t want to go back to school, for fear that they would be separated from their families.

In order to address the children’s trauma, the teachers of the Coca-Cola school, had medics from a nursing school nearby counsel the students and explain methods to minimize panic reactions. The child protection agency of UNICEF says that, in the short term, they focused on giving temporary relief by providing tarpaulins, school supplies and other necessities that were needed immediately. However, as the community moved towards the recovery phase, they started establishing child friendly spaces in the barangays and providing psychological analysis for the kids. In the long term, UNICEF hopes to prepare the children mentally for future natural disasters, by educating them about wearing distinctly colored clothing so that they can be identified quickly, and having nametags in case of an emergency.

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As we’ve learned from Haiyan, experiencing violent winds and heavy rain is daunting for adults, let alone young children who are unaware of the situation. Therefore, ISM’s donations to Estancia not only resurrects broken classrooms, but also establishes a learning environment in which children can thrive.

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